Friends of the Lower Blue River

A nonprofit organization

FOLBR is raising funds to increase its outreach to the community. The organization plans to promote activities and events to expose the greater Summit County community to the Blue River Valley and the Blue River environment. Many of these activities will involve young school aged children.

FOLBR functions as a constructive forum on issues important to the Valley through education, communication, and membership participation.

We Do So By:

  1. Helping to maintain a reasonable approach to land use, including development, agriculture, open space, and wildlife issues, while supporting the ranching and agricultural lifestyle.
  2. Addressing interests such as transportation (especially on Highway 9), recreation, emergency services, fire protection, livestock evacuation planning, water matters, and cell phone services.
  3. Collaborating closely with Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, and the Lower Blue Planning Commission.
  4. Gathering and disseminating information on studies, activities, and pending decisions of concern to members of FOLBR.

We Promote Environmental Integrity In The Blue River Valley.


To sustain and protect the traditional agricultural character, promote the safety of the residents, livestock and wildlife, and maintain the environmental integrity of the Lower Blue River Valley through education, collaboration and community involvement.

Background Statement


By: Frank Isenhart

During the fall of 2000, George and Pam Beardsley had a small gathering at their Brush Creek Ranch. A young man connected with the non-profit, "Colorado Wild" gave a short talk on the conservation efforts his group had undertaken, and there was discussion afterwards on how such work might help to preserve the rural/open space nature of the Lower Blue River Valley.

That meeting's focus spawned the idea of a volunteer citizens group. George approached several who had been there, and who had second homes in the Lower Blue: Tom Kaesemeier, Adam Poe, and Frank Isenhart. A series of group breakfast meetings in Denver scoped out the ultimate organization which became the Friends of the Lower Blue River (FOLBR). George registered the name with the Secretary of State, and Frank established a taxpayer ID number with the IRS and then opened a bank checking account. (These two also because the first "so-called officers" of the corporations as signatories on the bank account.) From the beginning, FOLBR has been a non-profit Corporation, but not a 501(c)3 where member donations are tax deductible. So with the organization in place, at least on paper, a few hundred dollars in the bank, and a pilot mission statement, the Founders began talking up the need for conservation among the (hopefully) like-minded neighbors in the Lower Blue Valley.

The prime (if not sole) worry at that time was the threat of unbridled real estate development along the Blue River. We all had seen this kind of experience overload, even trash, in the Eagle Valley; stretching from East Vail/ Vail way west to the concentrated communities past Minturn: Edwards, Eagle, Avon, etc. With some intelligent foresight and planning, FOLBR hoped to organize a realistic citizens' opposition to such sprawl, while at the same time still recognizing existing land owners' rights to subdivide their properties into large 35-40-acre parcels.

It was also thought that FOLBR would ultimately need a part-time Executive Director. With that in mind, the Founders canvassed additional potential donors and raised a total of $4,000 from four Lower Blue property owners. These amounts were treated as non-interest-bearing loans, callable at the donor's discretion. In addition, the group also anticipated the need for legal help in drafting by-laws, and an Otter Creek resident, lawyer Jim McCotter, agreed to be that important resource.

By coincidence, this early formation of FOLBR in 2000-'01 coincided with the required 10-year revision of the Lower Blue Master Plan; to be overseen by a Lower Blue Planning Commission (then chaired by Joe Hostetter). That Planning Commission included Dan Damyanovich (a well-known Lower Blue building contractor), Sean Flannigan (owner of the Lazy Shamrock Ranch), as well as three or four other residents of the Lower Blue portion of the County, which included the town of Silverthorne, and then stretched north to Grand County's southern boundary above Green Mountain Reservoir. It was clear from the onset that almost everyone on that commission shared some of the same open space and conservation ethic that underscored the formative mission behind FOLBR.

The County's "Planning Office" had assigned a young woman named Charmin Calamaris to assist Hostetter and his commission members as they reviewed the prior Lower Blue Planning document written years before. And as their numerous monthly public hearings unfolded, it seemed to many who participated in those sessions that one or two on the three-member Board of Summit County Commissioners (known as the BOCC) might be seeing development as a way to further increase County property taxes because the 2000-'02 "dot-com melt down" had temporarily reduced some parts of Summits' normal economic activity (accentuated by anxieties brought on by the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01).

Two other seemingly confusing facts were also at work during those important monthly Lower Blue Master Plan meetings. First, another member of the County's Planning Office informed the attendees in an early session that it was important to structure the eventual Plan with very specific language. The reason, he explained, was that a recent court case in (Larimer County) had upheld property owners who had sued their County Commissioners over development decisions that violated their Master Plan. Thus, our document when completed, even though to be taken "under advisement" by the BOCC, (and thus be non-binding), still had some teeth if it ever came to a legal showdown. So, the members of Hostetter's Planning group, along with many who attended those meetings, were encouraged to include very explicit conservation language in the ultimate new Lower Blue Master Plan draft.

Then, second, it was known that each of the other Summit County Basins (or "fingers") were also at work updating their own Master Plans: Snake River (Keystone), Upper Blue (Breckenridge), and Copper Mountain. In each of these others, the stated role of conservation, open space, and limited density development seemed somewhat secondary, since these three ski destinations within the County had already experienced major real estate growth. So, their primary future objectives were somewhat different than that of the Lower Blue Basin north of Silverthorne, which still was relatively untouched by development.

However, despite these apparent major differences with the more rural Lower Blue River area, the BOCC then decided to create and sanction a Countywide Planning Commission, to homogenize and standardize many of the aspects that each separate Planning Group was independently deciding. Hostetter and his Lower Blue Planning members were again suspicious that this was another way some of the County Commissioners might be trying to steer the process to favor a more development-prone agenda. Whether ultimately true or not, it introduced a new and somewhat antagonistic aspect as between the Lower Blue Planning Commission and Summit's BOCC.

Not long afterwards in the Spring of 2002, another brand-new problem surfaced to occupy Hostetter's group; that of "The Lionsgate Project", a major real estate proposal brought by Lower Blue rancher, Steve Fausel, and his neighbor, Randy Winegard. They were hoping to develop 1315 acres of their adjoining properties into a Jack Nicklaus designed eighteen-hole golf course, with 213 home sites along the fairways, a clubhouse, pro shop and restaurant. They even planned 50 smaller, so-called "fishing properties" along the property's Blue River boundary. All in all, it was a development that anticipated an overall density of one building unit for every five acres. It definitely violated the County's existing rural density code of one unit per thirty-five to forty acres. This proposal came at Hostetter's Commission somewhat "out of the blue", though it seemed apparent that Fausel and Winegard had been planning it for months.

There were the usual hearings in connection with this development plan, with much testimony from an opposition that quickly took shape. In the midst of this controversy, Charmin Calamaris resigned her position as the Planning Office's facilitator for the Lower Blue Master Plan, and a substitute took her place. Finally, however, the Lionsgate development plan was voted down even though both its attorney and a hired land planner gave supporting evidence in favor of it at the very last hearing. Throughout the small early membership of FOLBR, the development plan was made known with comments about the proposal, and when the decision was finally made it was felt that our fledgling citizens' group had helped to confront an important challenge.

Even with the experience of this aggressive real estate plan having been thwarted, the Lower Blue Planning Commission still anticipated other such proposals might surface in the future. So, its Master Plan subsequently contained explicit wording reinforcing the Valley's rural zoning. However, fortune smiled for a time (in a left-handed sense) in that the national economic slowdown after the years of the 2001-02 dot-com bubble seemed to put a temporary hiatus on such projects. By mid-decade, however as the economy and stock market slowly began recovering. There were again suggestions that some potentially large real estate projects might ensue. For instance, the County Fairgrounds (with an extensive infrastructure, including commercial vendors) was reputedly being discussed for a move into the Lower Blue near Ute Pass Road, a rumor which was never proven.

Recognizing that FOLBR had to become more business-like and professional, a small group of members and its "Founders Committee" decided to take the organization a major step forward by hiring Charmin Calamaris to assist as a sort of "temporary Executive Director". Her duties were to better organize members solicitations and contributions, codify (in a more formal, legal way) the mission, create By-Laws, and generally move the organization along in its operation. This she did for a number of months, before marrying and moving on to a permanent job in the Pacific Northwest. FOLBR was sorry to lose her, but it was known she was only to be involved for a short time.

The organization was then hugely fortunate to be able to attract Karn Stiegelmeier as its new and more permanent E.D. Karn brought a host of talents to our group, not least her extensive County contacts and her passion for a conservation focus in the Lower Blue. Following her initial months, FOLBR began evolving as a more traditional organization. An Executive Committee was formed as an agreed-upon substitute for a President, since no one (at that point) was willing to singly serve in that leadership post. Computer records of donors were kept by Karn for the first time. Newsletters were periodically circulated by U.S. mail to a long list of Summit property owners. July or August annual meetings were held outdoors at various ranches (where speakers were also invited to present their perspective on Lower Blue issues). And donor member e-mail addresses were gathered as an effort to facilitate communication. Also, during the roughly five years of her service Karn Stiegelmeier expanded our group's focus to include water issues, pine beetle education, fire prevention discussions, and other important Lower Blue concerns. Our membership expanded and prospered in large part because of her good leadership through 2008 when she had to resign after having been newly elected to the BOCC, replacing Tom Long.

During that period our FOLBR group made it a priority to stay in touch with the work of Todd Robertson, County Open Space Director. And we financially contributed (in a small way) to his successful efforts at securing and preserving the Cow Camp properties near Summit's northern most boundary. FOLBR also sent modest dollars to Continental Divide Land Trust's final conservation wrap-up of the Moser ranch, that effort being spearheaded by its Executive Director, Leigh Girvin.

Moreover, the news of Silverthorne's annexation of a part of the Maryland Creek Ranch property brought several FOLBR responses in writing to the Everist family owners. Subsequently, their master plan on residential sites was quite responsibly addressed, whether from our efforts, from other pressures, or from their own sense of stewardship. (It should be noted, however, that a large piece of that ranch remains to its north, and that the Everist's have not yet decided as to its ultimate disposition. Sharon Magnus and Ernie Blake have a beautiful ranch property which abuts just north of it, and it's hoped that their wish will be to keep all of that acreage, theirs and the Maryland Creek chunk to their south, as part of some future conservation plan. FOLBR should try to support that outcome.)

The possibility for continued "urban creep'" is very much a continued threat, not only in the Blue Valley, but also in Grand County as well. Fortunately, the huge Paul Tudor Jones ranch, with its apparent commitment to stewardship and ecological preservation, is a visible and major anchor to the north. And Perry Handyside (it's manager/foreman) has been a helpful supporter of FOLBR. However, south of that ranch that he oversees is a more recent single-family development way up the Spring Creek Road. This project was originally platted (and sold?) in a responsible manner, but has now gone through bankruptcy. The FOLBR Board should stay alert as to its final disposition in case a new, much denser platting plan, were to replace the old one. Handyside and his staff might conceivably be helpful if that were to become an issue.

Following Karn, the organization selected Myrth McDonald to become its next E.D. She had few of the conservation contacts FOLBR had enjoyed all during the Stiegelmeier years, but certainly brought a youthful and business-oriented vigor to our group. She quickly acclimated to the Lower Blue. Requirements of the job, and also took the administrative segments to a new high with her establishing even more computer assisted record keeping and communication.

During her roughly 14-month involvement, FOLBR was led by its second President, Sam Kirk. (Cheryl Varvill had graciously served as our first for a short period earlier, but had to unfortunately step aside to address some important personal issues.) Kirk, besides being a full-time Lower Blue resident, instituted a so-called "new look" to the organization's board. Job descriptions of officers were created, and a full slate of such officers were then proposed and elected. Committees were formed around key segments such as membership, the annual meeting, and other continuing priorities. As well, he became the advocate on an important new focus for FOLBR, that of an emergency evacuation plan for the Valley's livestock

Unfortunately, Myrth McDonald had to reluctantly resign when learning of an unexpected third baby, and so the organization was forced again to search for a replacement. Sam Kirk once more led the advertising, culling, and interview process and his committee finally selected Martie Richardson, a well-known County expert on high country wildflowers and other outdoor involvements. Since Martie's beginning months in 2010, the board has continued to focus on areas related to increasing membership, weed control, fire mitigation, livestock safety, Blue River water issues, and By-Law/Mission revisions. Today, that work continues under Executive Director Jonathan Knopf and a committed Board of Directors.

FOLBR's history has been filled with a number of issues that, while important (and in some cases brought on by unforeseen circumstances like the beetle infestation), have generally occupied its priorities over the old worries of potential Lower Blue Valley development. One should not assume this latter type of threat will forever be quiescent.

In conclusion, Friends of the Lower Blue River hopes to continue expanding its membership and influence in years to come. Importantly, the County's government also now contains elected officials who are believed to be more sympathetic to Lower Blue issues and activities. FOLBR's future should indeed be bright.

Organization Data


Organization name

Friends of the Lower Blue River

other names


Year Established


Tax id (EIN)



Environment, Animal-Related, Arts, Culture & Humanities, Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy, Community Improvement & Capacity Building, Food, Agriculture & Nutrition

Organization Size

Small Organization


191 Elkview Rd


191 Elkview Rd.


PO BOX 2191

Service areas

Summit County, CO, US





Social Media